Raw milk is the only food that regulators hold to a standard of perfection—something that is impossible to achieve. The consequent bans and limitations on raw milk sales and distribution constitute protectionism for the conventional dairy industry under the guise of measures to protect the public health.
Raw milk is at the center of the struggle between the local and industrial food systems for the consumer dollar. Pasteurized milk, being a perishable item, is what frequently brings the consumer to the supermarket, usually leading to purchases of other foods. Likewise, raw milk is what often brings consumers to the farm in the first place; once there they also wind up purchasing meat, poultry, eggs and produce.
Raw milk and raw milk products (other than raw cheese aged 60 days) are the only foods banned in interstate commerce thanks to a 34-year-old FDA regulation. As a result of the ban, states are more free to draw up their own laws and policies on raw milk than they are on any other food. State raw milk laws are a hodgepodge, differing state to state around the country, but what is consistent is that states have for many years been increasingly legalizing the sale and distribution of raw milk or expanding access to it through statute, regulation or a policy in order to meet the growing demand.
The Weston A. Price Foundation launched “A Campaign for Real Milk" in 1999; at that time farmers could legally produce raw milk for either human consumption or for pet consumption in 27 states; in 2021, that number stands at 44.
Much of the progress in legalizing raw milk sales and distribution and expanding access to the product is due to individuals who were willing to risk and/or suffer through government enforcement actions over providing a nutrient-dense food to the increasing number of those who wanted it. Those people include:
- California - Mark McAfee, Aajonus Vonderplanitz, Mike and Jane Hulme, James Stewart, Pattie Chelseth, Victoria Bloch, and Sharon Palmer;
- Florida - Dennis and Alicia Stoltzfoos;
- Indiana - David Hochstetler;
- Kentucky - Gary Oakes, John and Jessica Moody;
- Maine - Dan Brown, Heather and Phil Retberg
- Maryland - Liz Reitzig; Sally Fallon Morell
- Michigan - Richard Hebron, Jenny Samuelson, Joel Golimbieski;
- Minnesota - Mike Hartman, Alvin Schlangen, Will Winter;
- Missouri - Armand and Teddy Bechard;
- New York - Steve and Barbare Smith, Chuck Phippen, Gerry Snyder;
- North Carolina - Ernest Ramsey;
- Ohio - Paul and Carol Schmitmeyer, Dan Kremer, Donna Betts, Ralph and Sheila Schlatter, Paul Yoder, Arlie Stutzman, Steve Miller;
- Oregon - Billie Johnson;
- Pennsylvania - Mark Nolt, Levi Miller, Amos Miller, Leroy Miller, Dan Allgyer;
- Texas - Eldon Hooley, Eddie Miller, Bob Stryk;
- Utah - Symbria and Sarah Patterson;
- Virginia - Christine Solem;
- Wisconsin - Dan Siegmund, Wayne and Janet Brunner, Scott Troutman, Kay and Wayne Craig, Tim Wightman, Mark and Petra Zinniker, Max Kane, Vernon
- Hershberger, Kelly and Nancy Anderson, Chaz Self, Vince Hundt.
All raw milk consumers owe a debt of gratitude to these courageous individuals and the many others who have made this health giving food available in the face of government hostility. Some of these people are featured in articles on this site; the stories show the obstacles to legal raw milk as well as the steady progress the real milk movement has made towards our goal of legal access to raw milk in all 50 states.
Articles also focus the effort to legalize raw milk in Canada. Dairy farmer Michael Schmidt has been fighting for 27 years for legal raw milk in Ontario and throughout the country. Even though raw milk sales are still illegal, Schmidt’s actions have emboldened many farmers to distribute raw milk, increasing access in Canada.
Hopefully, the Canadian experience and experience in other countries unfriendly to raw milk—like Australia and New Zealand—will eventually mirror that of the U.S. There are still government enforcement actions against raw milk producers and distributors but these occur considerably less frequently than 10-15 years ago. Opponents of raw milk legalization no longer portray raw milk as the public health threat as they did in the past. The push towards legal raw milk for all the U.S. continues on, one state at a time.